Earlier this month we were treated to a thrilling clash between Premier League title contenders Manchester City and Liverpool.
The match was billed as being the biggest game of the season so far, and it didn’t let us down.
Although Liverpool walked away as the match winners, Manchester City showed plenty of skill and determination in the cauldron that is Anfield.
But it showed that even optimistic Manchester City previews can sometimes get it wrong. Plus with Liverpool seeming virtually unstoppable, should Pep Guardiola’s team give up their hopes of winning another Premier League title?
City’s ruthless attitude
Manchester City may be in third place in the Premier League table, but this team have enough quality and character not to let the title slip from their grasp.
Not only is Pep Guardiola a supremely skilled tactician, but players like Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling have the fighting spirit necessary to score goals when it counts.
As a result, there are many who believe that Manchester City still hold a strong chance of winning their third successive league title. It’s something that’s backed up at all UK betting sites that hold a license with many bookmakers still having Pep Guardiola’s team just behind Liverpool in the betting odds.
Although City have slipped behind Leicester in the league table, with Chelsea two points adrift in fourth, it’s thought that the Londoners lack the experience necessary to hang on to their position, while Leicester could prove to be too inconsistent. However, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of work to be done at the Etihad.
Signs of weakness in the City team
There is little doubt that Manchester City are blessed with a ferocious attack. Pep Guardiola has a wealth of proven goalscorers at his disposal, and with Raheem Sterling delivering the kind of form that’s getting him linked with clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, it’s clear that goals aren’t a problem in the City team.
However, it’s further back where things are getting a little more troublesome. The Manchester City defence suffered a real shock when their centre-back Aymeric Laporte endured a nasty knee injury that could see him out of action well into the new year.
It’s something that’s already affected Manchester City’s defensive record as the club had already conceded 14 goals in their first 13 appearances.
This leakiness in the back-four contributed to embarrassing defeats at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Norwich City, and it’s clear that Pep Guardiola could spend big on the winter transfer period to resolve these defensive issues.
Big tests to come before Christmas
Now that the trial by fire at Anfield is out of the way, Manchester City have to get their head down and pick up some points at some difficult games in the run up to Christmas. After the international break, City hosted Chelsea on 23 November and ran out 2-1 winners.
It was a hugely important win for Pep Guardiola’s team, where they relied on the experience of quality players like Kevin De Bruyne to get three points here.
While Chelsea have a side full of gifted youngsters, they have often revealed themselves to be vulnerable in the final stages of the match.
Following this game, City should be able to pick up some relatively easy points with matches against Newcastle and Burnley.
But things will really heat up when the festive season gets underway. With matches against tough teams like Arsenal, Leicester City and Wolves, it will prove to be a real test of character for many City players.
But it’s the Manchester derby at the Etihad on 7 December that could provide the biggest fireworks in what’s already proving to be a deeply fascinating football season.